For Brendan Steele, five years between PGA Tour victories allowed him to learn some life and golf lessons.
Until his victory Sunday at the Safeway Open at Silverado Resort and Spa, Steele’s only previous win had come at the 2011 Valero Texas Open in his rookie season.
Steele had been in contention plenty of times, including 2015 when he took a three-stroke lead into the final round of the Safeway Open only to finish tied for 17th after a final-round meltdown. It was different this time.
“Originally it was almost like success came too fast. It was my 12th event, I hadn’t had a top-10, it was my first real chance to have a good week on Tour and I won,” Steele said after beating Patton Kizzire by one stroke.
“So after that of course the expectations go up and I started thinking that it was just going to come easily and I was just going to keep doing the same things and just keep getting better and better and that’s not really the case.”
Steele said he began to feel he belonged in the Tour’s upper echelon last year but learning to win was the next step. He watched Jason Day, Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy make it look easier than it is and tried to apply what he saw in them to himself.
“I’ve always been kind of more of the one to try to not make a mistake when I get in that situation. So I’ve had to try to flip that around now and say look, I’m going to be in contention a lot, I need to enjoy it, I need to be aggressive and I need to try to come out and win. A 10th place finish isn’t okay when you’re playing great,” Steele said
“That’s been a big adjustment for sure. I definitely wasn’t sure that I would ever win again, but I felt like I was doing the right things to improve my game. I felt like I’m a lot better playing in the last three years than I was in 2011.”
Steele’s victory validated his switch to a traditional length putter, which was encouraged by the anchoring ban that was put in place this year. He also demonstrated an ability to play well in difficult conditions. A southern California native, Steele said it’s been no secret that he doesn’t relish playing in the rain but he made it work in Napa.
All in all, it was a good week which included a Friday night dinner at the famous French Laundry restaurant with Phil Mickelson.
“It was definitely fantastic,” Steele said. “A lot of things that I wouldn’t necessarily order but are ridiculously good.”